Town Hall shut down to halt bill

Lights out: Coun John Swindells in the Town Hall
Lights out: Coun John Swindells in the Town Hall
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The lights will go out at Preston’s Town Hall on Friday – but it’s only for a day.

City council bosses have revealed plans to close down the back office for 24 hours this week and for every subsequent Friday for the next eight weeks.

It is part of a drive towards bringing down its carbon emissions to push the authority under its megawatt hour target before March when it would be hit with a £470,000 ‘carbon tax’ over the next five years if it did not make the savings.

The council must get its energy usage below 6,000 megawatt hours (MwH) by March to avoid the bill.

Chief executive Lorraine Norris said some of the council’s 250-strong workforce would be offered the choice of working from home, taking holidays or even using a temporary ‘hot desk’ facility at the Town Hall.

She said: “To members of the public, it will appear no different, the leisure centres, the Harris museum, the rubbish collections and all the other services we provide will remain the same.

“We knew this carbon tax has been coming in and, if it came in next March or even this autumn we would hit it, but it doesn’t, it comes in this March.

“If we don’t hit it, we get a £90,000-a-year bill, so we had to do something.”

She said the planned closure of council offices at Lancastria House – expected to take place in the next two years – would not come soon enough to meet the deadline.

The council has also put solar panels on the Town Hall roof, is looking at building a wind farm on the city’s docklands and has refurbished buildings to make them more energy efficient.

John Swindells, the council’s deputy leader, said if the pilot is a success it could roll-out more home-working.

It has brought its usage down from 8,373 Mwh in 2009 to 6,680 Mwh last year.

He said: “Part of our commitment has always been to be greener and if there are ways we can use technology for home-working, for example, we will look to do it.

“This pilot will teach us a lot about what we can and cannot do. I would much rather the £470,000 was spent on providing services to the people of Preston over the next five years than going to the taxman.”

The switch-offs will take place every Friday from this Friday, February 1 until Friday, March 29, with facilities including the leisure centres, Harris Museum and Library, Guildhall and Town Hall call centre, OneStop Shop, housing advice, and advice services in Birley Street offices will operate as normal.